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The Kalifa Review: Industry Reacts to Long-Awaited UK Fintech Review

The long-awaited Kalifa review into Fintech conducted by KPMG has now been published, but how has the industry reacted? The Fintech Times spoke to businesses such as Railsbank, Confused.com and PwC UK to hear their reaction.

Commissioned by HM Treasury, the review was promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in his first budget in May 2020. Tasked with the job, Ron Kalifa OBE (Chairman at Network International and ex-CEO of Worldpay), has spent the last year listening to the industry about what changes need to happen. Opening the review, he commented.

“Fintech is about change. It is about new firms and established ones, large companies and small and the roles of both public and private sector. At present, these elements and their well intentioned supporters are not pulling together in a single vision.

“Set out in this Review, is a strategy and a delivery model for us to provide leadership in fintech. If we are to succeed then it must be comprehensive, coordinated and focussed. That is why I have put forward recommendations to support fintech scaleups with the capital and skills they need to succeed. But these measures must be combined with world-leading policy and regulation. The UK has a hard-won reputation of trust when it comes to regulation and the rule of law. We must ensure that we build trust in this new wave of tech-enabled products and services”

While the review stretches to more than 100 pages, there are five key points. Something that in the preface Kalifa adds, “As you will see from these recommendations, they are the responsibility of all of us.”

Five key points

Policy and Regulation

  • Deliver a digital finance package that creates a new regulatory framework for emerging technology
  • Implement a “Scalebox” that supports firms focusing on scaling innovative technology
  • Establish a Digital Economy Taskforce (DET) to ensure alignment across government
  • Ensure that fintech forms an integral part of trade policy

Skills

  • Retrain and upskill adults in support of UK fintech by ensuring access to short courses from high-quality education providers at low cost
  • Create a new visa Stream to enhance access to Global Talent for fintech scaleups
  • Build a pipeline of fintech talent by supporting fintech scaleups to offer embedded work placements to Further Education and Higher Education students and Kickstarters

Investment

  • Expand R&D tax credits, Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trusts
  • Unlock institutional capital to create a £1bn “Fintech Growth Fund” of sufficient scale to act as the catalyst in developing a world leading ecosystem
  • Improve the listing environment through free float reduction, dual class shares and relaxation of pre-emption rights
  • Create a global family of fintech indices to enhance sector visibility

International

  • Deliver an international action plan for fintech
  • Launch an international “Fintech Credential Portfolio” (FCP) to support international credibility and increase ease of doing business
  • Drive international collaboration through the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology, and launch an International Fintech Taskforce

National connectivity

  • Nurture the high growth potential of the top 10 fintech clusters
  • Drive national coordination strategy through Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology
  • Accelerate the development and growth of fintech clusters through further investment, such as in R&D

How has the industry reacted?

CEO of Railsbank, Nigel Verdon: “It’s important to emphasise the Review is not simply about a set of individual recommendations, but a wider strategy for the sector with a delivery model. We’re not asking for the government to do everything, but rather a 80/20 rule – with main activity driven through the private sector and the government then asked to support and convene activity to enable the delivery of that strategy.

“The fintech sector must come together to lead the UK’s economic recovery. However, it’s shocking the elephant in the room with Brexit is never acknowledged – the market dropped from 720 million people to 60 million overnight and has cost all of us millions to set up mirrored infrastructure in Europe”

ComplyAdvantage founder and CEO, Charles Delingpole:

“The £1bn of additional capital is very welcome but that is in the context of an already successful existing VC landscape. It will be important to be meaningfully differentiated from the commercial growth funds of which there are many.

“Whilst regional fintech clusters might be an attractive aspiration for politicians seeking to democratise access to financial services jobs, in reality, given that London is a global financial centre its gravitational pull eclipses all other cities in the UK. Therefore, any specialisation is limited to servicing the needs of London rather than being a specialist cluster in its own right.”

Chief Business Officer at Yolt Technology Services, Leon Muis:

“This review confirms what we’ve known all along – better communication across our entire industry is essential for the progression and adoption of open banking. It goes beyond fintechs working with incumbents – we need to see end user businesses getting the opportunity to feed into the development process, providers both established and new working with them, and crucially better guidance and support across the whole sector.

“Our recent research uncovered that nearly half of financial services businesses feel that they need better education and guidance around open banking and the associated risks, particularly with data security. It also showed a number of misconceptions that many businesses hold around the technology, which is hampering widespread adoption.”

CEO of compliance solutions software provider, NorthRow, Adam Holden:

“Fintech companies have often considered their efforts to be under-appreciated by the Government. As an example, when CBILS and BBLS were first launched, many fintech companies were excluded, in favour of the traditional banks. I recognise that some of this was for liquidity reasons, but they were arguably better placed to effectively and efficiently police the processes when speed was of the essence. The outcome was a potential multi-million pound bill to the Government for fraudulent cases.

“In order to keep ahead of the game – both in keeping the UK ahead of the competition and keeping us ahead of the bad actors – the industry in the UK needs access to the very best talent, and we can achieve this far quicker with regional funding to support the previous focus on London investment.”

CEO of TransferGo, Daumantas Dvilinskas:

“The review provides crucial steps to demonstrating how the UK can continue to lead the fintech revolution. Like so many others we have chosen the UK as a base because we believe it has the talent, infrastructure and policies that will help fintechs thrive and build an inclusive community that equally supports businesses and the customers they serve.”

Software bootcamp Makers (skills provider who was part of the review), CEO Claudia Harris:

“The skills analysis in the Kalifa Review is our lived experience at Makers. We recognised this challenge 7 years ago and created the software engineering bootcamp industry in Europe. The industry’s effectiveness has in effect ‘credentialised’ it and most employers recognise it as an alternative to university.

“The Kalifa Review is seeking to accelerate the credentialisation of the specific short form courses required by the Fintech Sector with the Steering Committee it proposes. We welcome this and look forward to playing our part.”

PwC UK Financial Services Deals Leader, Michael Magee:

“Creating a fund owned and managed by institutional investors will provide access to more patient capital for Fintechs, giving them breathing space to realise their vision without investors seeking a shorter exit and giving those Fintechs that make their home in the UK a chance to grow in an inclusive, welcoming environment.”

Partner, Digital Innovation in Banking, PwC UK, Steve Davies:

“Talent, rather than technology, is the most critical enabler for successful digital transformation, and with FinTech driving the wave of digitisation through the financial services industry today, the focus on both global talent attraction and digital upskilling in Ron Kalifa’s report are welcome.

“The Kalifa Review seeks to move UK Fintech into the lives of businesses and individuals around the nation. We have a world class asset and the five-point plan is something the UK FS industry can all get behind. Although not referenced in the report, it is also going to be paramount to increase the diversity of the sector in order to ensure no unintended biases in the technology solutions and products developed, and we are proud to be a signatory of the FinTech for All Charter in support of this imperative.”

CEO and Founder of Pockit, Virraj Jatania:

“Entrepreneurs across the whole UK fintech sector will welcome today’s report with open arms. These ideas and initiatives can breathe new life into our industry. They can set the scene for accelerated growth, keep businesses based in the UK, create new jobs and help people develop specialist skills.

“The fintech sector is a key growth engine of the UK economy, and can be a centrepiece of our Covid-19 recovery. But for the sector to achieve its potential we need to roll out the welcome mat to fintech talent from across the globe and to improve access to investment. This needs to happen now. Today’s proposals must not become lodged in the machinery of government.”

Head of EMEA and President of Silicon Valley Bank’s UK Branch, Erin Platts:

“The Fintech Strategic Review recognises that despite the macro-headwinds from the Covid-19 pandemic, economic backdrop and Brexit, the UK remains the one of the most attractive places to found and build leading fintechs globally. By putting into practice the recommendations laid out today in the final report, the UK can capitalise on this competitive edge and build on the momentum seen to date and encourage more companies to go public through UK markets. We shouldn’t take our status for granted and we should do everything we can to continue attracting capital into the UK’s innovation economy as investment today will drive innovation tomorrow.”

CEO of insurtech Urban Jungle, Jimmy Williams:

“Potentially, the most impactful proposal of the Kalifa report is for the creation of a £1bn fintech growth fund. Currently, most fintechs are forced to look outside of the UK for funding when they get to a bigger scale. Typically, they seek investors in the US, where pockets are deeper. Having a major fund in the UK would be very beneficial and would mean the very biggest companies had more chance of remaining in the UK.

“Regional hubs sound like an interesting idea and finance has historically been successful outside of the capital. However, some care needs to be taken about the quality of jobs being created. While we find lots of great talent locally, we have noticed the impact of Brexit on talent and recruitment. Finding talent when you are a start-up is a challenge and so specialist visas would be welcome. We also want to bring staff back to the office once the COVID restrictions are loosened. If people all work remotely, they can do so from abroad. It makes sense for the government to encourage talent to come to the UK and for those jobs to be taxed here.”

CEO of Confused.com, Louise O’Shea

“The findings put in place the foundations to encourage innovation in financial technology in the UK. Wales is already a prominent place for fintech businesses, with companies like Confused.com, Wealthify and Delio having established long term roots here. But the publication of the Kalifa report puts a spotlight on the fintech industry and acknowledges how important it is to support further growth.

“The review reinforces Wales’ position as a fintech hub within the UK and means that as businesses, we’re able to be even more active in developing innovations and skills, while creating additional jobs in the industry. This will only accelerate the opportunity for positive change and help position us as being world leaders in fintech. We look forward to working with the industry to implement these plans and encouraging STEM skills in schools to enable our children to thrive and innovate the fintech sector of the future.”

Founder of INSTANDA, Tim Hardcastle:

“As a founder of an insurtech, the main thing we are looking for in the Review will be encouraging innovation and talent. Currently, skillsets and capabilities are one of the largest limiters in innovation in the insurtech space. We will be looking for a more ambitious, joined up, educational and industrial (digital) strategy for the UK. This includes easing the access to skills overseas.

“The insurtech industry will grow only if we push the boundaries on innovation, and accept new ideas from external entities. Brexit has been a challenge in that respect but it also gives the UK some tremendous opportunities to progressively build on the successes to date in fintech. The regulator should focus on ensuring consumer interests are protected and there is transparency in the industry. A focus on transparency today will help shape the guardrails that stimulates innovation and encourage the industry players to confidently invest in this area.”

Author

  • Gina is a fintech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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